Movies

Peter Suderman Reviews Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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For this week's movie review, I took on the second Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez adaptation of Miller's Sin City comics:

The comic's cartoon nihilism works in short bursts, as a kind of concise, witty send-up of old crime and detective stories. But on screen, at feature length, it's a drag — a movie with no hope or happiness, just two-dimensional doom and despair.

The whole thing is delivered in a hard-boiled style so inhuman and over-the-top that it verges on parody: Tenderness is replaced with lust, levity with comic ultraviolence. The characters all speak obsessively of blood and sweat and night and the pointlessness of everything, and after an hour or so, you start to see they have a point, if only about the movie you're watching.

The dialogue is so insistently one-note that when you leave the theater it's tempting to start talking in the same sort of gritty one-liners as the characters: It's a movie that runs you over like a semi-truck, with dialogue that explodes like broken glass in your ears. After a while, you wonder what the point is. You don't watch this movie — you take 100 minutes to stare at the void.

Read the whole review in The Washington Times.  

My friend (and Reason contributor) Sonny Bunch at The Washington Free Beacon took the Miller-esque reviewing to a whole different level. His review is worth your time, even if the movie isn't. 

Sony

One of the things I didn't bring up in the review is how influential Frank Miller has been on the past decade or so of dark-and-gritty revisionist genre movies. 

A lot of those movies, in particular the Christopher Nolan Batman films, which are heavily influenced by Miller's two classic Batman books, The Dark Knight Returns and Year One, are really quite good. And even now, Miller's older comics stand up pretty well, especially TDKR and some of his work on Daredevil.  

But later in his career, Miller just went off the rails. He had one idea—to reimagine practically everything as a grim, brooding, and often gruesome crime story—and he pushed it way too far, without much in the way of variation. His All-Star Batman and Robin was rightly ridiculed for reading like a parody of a grim, gritty Frank Miller comic. And by the time Holy Terror, a book that features a thinly-veiled stand-in for Batman exterminating jihadists in a mosque, came it, it went past ridiculous and into awful and offensive. 

So part of what the one-note noirish bleakness of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which Miller co-directed and which is often as literal a translation from screen to page as you can possibly imagine, offers is a reminder of how fundamentally silly the purest form of that vision is, especially when you try to move it off the comics page and into the world of live-action. The audience at the screening I was at cracked up more and more as the movie went on, and not because it was supposed to be funny. 

Check out Kurt Loder's review here

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  1. I thought Marv died in the first one.

    1. Prequel.

      The comics did the same thing…or at least that is what Wikipedia tells me.

  2. And by the time Holy Terror, a book that features a thinly-veiled stand-in for Batman exterminating jihadists in a mosque, came it, it went past ridiculous and into awful and offensive.

    Bullshit.

    Anakin massacred a room full of children and Ellis wrote like three or four comics all about assassinating a thinly-veiled Bush stand in and don’t forget about the epic and graphic massacres in the Avengers, The Winter Warrior and Guardians of the Galaxy

    Power fantasies are the the de jour of genera and comics. Just because this power fantasy pecks at some group you have a PC hard on for does not turn it into offensive.

    1. Perhaps the power fantasies are all as offense as the teal-and-orange color schemes? 🙂

    2. epic and graphic massacres in the Avengers

      are you talking about the Marauders traipsing through the sewers killing off Morlocks?

      1. You are nothing more then a traitorous Kree scum apologist.

        Those Scrull soldiers died valiantly fighting your Galaxy Guardians and Nova fascists.

    3. Suderman has a hard-on for jihadists? Megan must be getting to him (“On the one hand, sure, murdering people because you think Allah said so might be viewed by some as wrong, but let’s take a more nuanced view…”).

      1. Suderman has a hard-on for jihadists?

        Fictionalized murder of comic book villains by a fake batman.

        If you start defending fake villains from fake murder because they resemble something then yes you have a hard on for that something.

  3. What’s the deal with the bizarre color usage? (Or at least from what I saw of the commercial, it looks partly in color and partly not.)

    1. Yup

      Brilliant in the first movie.

    2. It took it from the comic.

      300 did the same thing to a lesser extent.

      Miller is the illustrator as well as the writer of these comics.

      Which is kind of a rare thing really.

  4. The dialogue is so insistently one-note that when you leave the theater it’s tempting to start talking in the same sort of gritty one-liners as the characters: It’s a movie that runs you over like a semi-truck, with dialogue that explodes like broken glass in your ears.

    “This guy smells awful. Like bad food. Like a corpse in a garbage dumpster in the middle of summer. He stinks so bad I wanna throw up.”

    Won’t see this one until it hits DVD, but I actually like the first movie’s dialogue.

    1. In fairness Alan Moore did it better with Rorschach.

      http://amazingpics.net/content/Quotes/Picture Quotes 435.jpg

  5. It’s a movie that runs you over like a semi-truck, with dialogue that explodes like broken glass in your ears.

    +1 Suderman. +1

    1. Weird – I’m hearing this in the voice of Joe from “Team America”…

      “The enemy’s OUT THERE, man!”

  6. KatManDo is not going to liek that dude.

    http://www.AnonCrypt.tk

    1. Why not, Anon-bot? Does KatManDo think that, if they had to make a sequel to Sin City, it should have come out in 2008 or 2009?

  7. I just came back from seeing it.

    It’s inferior to the first one.

    I thought the first one was fantastic in every way–save the central message, which struck me as especially misogynistic. A story set in a world where women use their sex to manipulate men into doing anything and everything from killing themselves to defending women against misogynistic serial killers may not necessarily be misogynistic by itself. But how do you tell the difference between a misogynistic movie and one that’s central message has it that women are all manipulative sluts?

    That being said, like any libertarian, it’s rare to find something where you had fun, thought it was a great movie in terms of plot development, characters, etc., and also agreed with the message. The original Sin City was an awesome movie like that.

    This movie I just saw was inferior. It has some of the same themes, but it wasn’t as cohesive as the original ended up being, and that’s what makes it such a meandering…bore. In the original, the meanderings ended up all being central to the plot. If there’s no final destination, it’s all just a series of diversions.

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